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Journey into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story

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Larry Levan 4/11/2006

Review

One look at Journey into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story will incite skepticism from many longtime disco collectors. How can the Warner-distributed Rhino justify a title so definitive when the compilation is so heavily weighted toward Warner-distributed material? (Levan did happen to remix and play a lot of Warner-distributed singles.) Why are Patrice Rushen's "Haven't You Heard," Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime," and Phreek's "Weekend" -- three Warner-distributed tracks played by Levan -- included instead of non-Warner tracks that were both remixed and played by Levan, such as Central Line's "Walking into Sunshine," Padlock's "Seventh Heaven," and Class Action's "Weekend"? (Rhino probably opted to save some money on licensing.) Why are so many of these songs appearing on CD for the umpteenth time? (Because they've never been concentrated quite like this, and some of the preceding compilations take some effort to track down.) Potential bellyaching aside, Journey into Paradise is another excellent way of commemorating the late Larry Levan, the Paradise Garage DJ, remixer, and occasional producer who exacted an immeasurable impact upon disco's underground culture and many of the singles that would eventually bubble up to the top of the disco and club charts. The project was handled with great care, from the colorful packaging to the extensive and insightful liner notes penned by the very plugged-in Adam Goldstone. These two discs complement the anthologies that focus on Levan's remix work for Salsoul and West End, though there is some overlap: Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat" (one of the sexiest, sweetest, slowest post-disco singles) and Inner Life's version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (a towering, sprawling, life-affirming anthem) are too crucial to be left off, as they also exemplify Levan's creativity as a remixer. If you were to compare Levan's work to the original mixes of these tracks, you'd really get the full effect of his instincts and mastery. His mixes of Janice McClain's "Smack Dab in the Middle," Dee Dee Bridgewater's "Bad for Me," and David Joseph's especially radical "You Can't Hide (Your Love from Me)" have also appeared on CD before, but they have a very long way to go to threaten "I Will Survive" as the most-compiled disco single. Not nearly enough people have heard them, and odds are good that some clubbing vets haven't reconnected with them in years. The addition of tracks that Levan merely spun only enhance the set, because they're all dynamite -- they include Chaka Khan's "Clouds," Sister Sledge's "Lost in Music," Trussel's "Love Injection," and Change's "Paradise" (which could also be titled "The Glare of Love"). Issues or no issues, this is one of the finest compilations of late-'70s and early-'80s dance music, and it is no mere coincidence that Levan is inextricably linked to everything on it. ~ Andy Kellman
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Paradise Change 5:9
  3. 2 Weekend [12" Extended Version] Phreek 8:9
  4. 3 Clouds Larry Levan 4:27
  5. 4 Haven't You Heard Patrice Rushen 6:44
  6. 5 We Got the Funk [12" U.S. Re-Edit Version] Positive Force 7:14
  7. 6 Smack Dab in the Middle Janice McClain 6:46
  8. 7 Bad for Me [12" Long Version] Dee Dee Bridgewater 8:29
  9. 8 Heartbeat [Club Version] Taana Gardner 9:48
  10. 9 You Can't Hide (Your Love from Me) David Joseph 6:43
  11. 10 Love Honey, Love Heartache [12" Vocal Version] Larry Levan 5:16
  12. 11 Don't Make Me Wait [12" Extended Version] Peech Boys 7:23
  13. 1 Baby I'm Scared of You Womack & Womack 5:37
  14. 2 Lost in Music [Special 1984 Nile Rodgers Remix] Sister Sledge 6:35
  15. 3 Why Leave Us Alone [12" Long Version] Five Special 10:8
  16. 4 Love Injection Trussel 7:49
  17. 5 Can't Play Around [12" Vocal Version] Lace 5:25
  18. 6 Ain't No Mountain High Enough [The Garage Version] Inner Life 10:26
  19. 7 It Should Have Been You [12" Vocal Version] Gwen Guthrie 7:5
  20. 8 A Lover's Holiday [12" Version] Change 6:25
  21. 9 Situation Larry Levan 5:43
  22. 10 Once in a Lifetime Talking Heads 4:15
  23. 11 Love Has Come Around [12" Version] Donald Byrd 7:47

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